All Saints’ Day November 5 and 6, 2022
“Blest Are They; Blest Are You” Revelation 7:9-12
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Do you get the impression that God doesn’t want us to be alone? From the very beginning God made us to be connected to others. In Genesis 2 when Adam had no other person to be with, God made Eve. “It is not good for the man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18) When Jesus sent His apostle’s out to do the work of God, He didn’t send them alone. They went out “two by two.” When life has gotten too heavy for those that you love, or for your own self, look at this word, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Alone? Never. Here is His promise to you, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
This is one of the best days of the year. Today we recognize the saints of God, especially the ones who have entered heaven before us. I got to read the list of those who have left us and entered the presence of God in this past year. Chad. Joan. Millie. Wayne. Terry. Dot. Jim. Dave. Beau. I even got to mention my dad’s name. Today we acknowledge what God did for our most beloved. They were never alone. In their hardest moment, at their last breath, they were never alone. It is like we say in Psalm 23, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:4,6) Your people, my people, didn’t go to some dark hole. They didn’t have their life just end with nothing that came next. They weren’t alone and they are not alone.
But sometimes you and I can feel very alone. We wonder if anyone really cares, if anyone has any time for us and our problems. We don’t want to be a burden to anyone so we sit in silence. I had a neighbor, Shirley, who was an amazing nurse. She had skills and she also had heart. One of her patients was dying and she contacted the family that the end for their mother was close. But they either didn’t want to come or they couldn’t come. But Shirley was determined that this woman was not going to die alone. She stayed by her side for quite a few hours. She was present when the hour of her death arrived. That mother wasn’t alone. Shirley was there. And so was God.
Alone? Never. Not on earth and not in heaven. John is clear about the vast numbers of people and angels that are enjoying God forever. Our reading from Revelation 7 says, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…They cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10) Earlier, in Revelation 5, the vast numbers are given in this manner, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.” (Verses 11-12)
Are those who have died in Christ, those who left this world being held by the compassion of Jesus, alone? No. They weren’t alone here, and they aren’t alone there.
On Sunday mornings I am teaching a class that I’ve given the title, “Pathways to Discipleship – Taking Faith Deeper”. It is based on a book by Pastor Ted Doering. I read this account where Ted tells about his own life and how he screwed everything up, “It was tax season a few years ago. There had been a few unexpected car-based expenses, and I had missed a couple of things on a form or two. I had just gotten the email from our tax office telling us what we would owe that year. As I read more zeroes than I care to admit, my heart dropped. In terms of failures in my life, this was in the top three. I walked into our bedroom and dropped onto the floor next to where my wife was sitting on the bed. Working the words out of my mouth, I confessed the errors I had made and how much it had cost. Her eyes were wide. All I could see was my failure. There was nowhere else to lay blame except on my shoulders. It was one of my duties to keep track of these things. Laziness had gotten in the way of me getting the job done. Now I had to sit in front of my wife, whom I had vowed to take care of the best I could, and admit utter defeat. You know what that woman did? Through her own fear and frustration, she looked at me with compassion, got down on the floor with me, and told me it would be all right. Over and over, when all I could see was my failure, she told me she still loved me. She pulled me back to grace and forgiveness, pointing me to my identity as a child of God. Sitting there on the floor of the bedroom, she proclaimed the promises of God over me. It was one of the most beautiful moments in our marriage.” (Walking Together: Simple Steps For Discipleship. Pages 142-143)
I’m glad he wasn’t alone to pick up the mess – he had someone who would continue to care for him. It is a most wonderful thing to have such human love. I hope, in all of your screw-ups, with your family and at work and with your neighbors, maybe even with your taxes, you have a human being who will show such great love to you, or you to others, that you know that you’re not alone.
God has given that to you. In the epistle of John we hear about our Savior, Jesus, who has taken our side. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2) And just before this, about His stand with us sinners, we read, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)
Do you see how blest those who have died before us in the faith are? Their spirits are with God right now. In this wonderful chapter seven of Revelation we also read, “They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17)
Alone? Never. Millions of others are there, but the best thing is this – Jesus is there and they are there in His care.
Blest are they. Blest are you. Right now. You live with a living faith in Jesus. You know His love. You know that He has good plans for you. But sometimes you aren’t so sure of that. Sometimes you are filled with worry and can’t feel Him and His presence. You wonder if you are alone. So, here’s a poem for you:
After the last scene of my life finished before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
Especially at the lowest and saddest times,
There was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times in my life there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Today is a day to know that those who have entered their eternity with Jesus aren’t alone. They have joined the number beyond numbering of God’s holy ones enjoying the presence of God. Blest are they. And us? Blest are you. In these days you have a Lord who carries you and He has given you people who love you.
Blest are they. Blest are you. Amen!!